Highly Sensitive Person

Empath – or “HSP” Highly Sensitive Person

To empath means to feel inside. Empaths feel inside deeply. This usually comes with an innate sensitivity.

Are you or do you know someone who is very sensitive? They may be a HSP. This is no disorder, illness, syndrome, label or fault, HSP is an inborn temperament and genetic expression – here a few more facts:

  • 15 to 20 % of the population are born with this high level of sensitivity

  • 70 % introverts, 30 % extroverts

  • High levels of physical sensitivities (sound, sigh, touch, or smell…)

  • Unconsciously “read” the mood of a room, a person, a situation quickly, factoring in subtle energies and cues when making a decision

  • Ability to sense conflict or danger due to their depth of perception and innate wisdom to see the consequences of an action before others do

  • High empathy, creativity, imagination & sixth sense (reception of information sensed with the unconscious mind and/or nervous system)

  • Feel more deeply and can take longer to make decisions

  • Easily over-stimulated, more prone to emotional reactivity

  • Easily overwhelmed by too much information, pressure or expectations

  • Can be more prone to anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, lack of healthy boundaries & people pleasing tendencies

  • Tendency to feel over-responsible, take things personal and often sensitive to criticism

  • More likely to suffer from asthma, eczema, allergies & immune disorders

Hypersensitivity is best managed and balanced to let the positive aspects shine through, which requires you to really know yourself or your child. “This trait is good in some situations and not in others,” says psychologist/ psychotherapist Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D:

  • Honour sensitivity. Don’t make yourself or your child do things that are too difficult. As much as possible, choose situations that suit temperament and ability. Highly sensitive people need more time than others to process the events of the day, so don’t overload yourself or your child. But don’t coddle or over shrink comfort zone. 

  • Step back. Allow yourself or your child an emotional reaction to a situation, but accept that there are other possibilities. Best approach for you or your child is to focus on calming down, acknowledging the emotion/feeling, then analysing the situation, and reevaluating it; pausing for reflection. 

  • Think ahead. To avoid sensory overload and anxiety, it is best to think and plan ahead what environments are suitable and NOT

  • Be prepared. – Sometimes earplugs or headset are an option to block out noise, sunglasses tone down views and a good book can distract from triggering source.

  • Tone it down. If crowds and noise are a problem, find venues that are quieter and less populated – a smaller grocery store instead of a major chain, for example, or a small doctor’s office located in a home instead of a large group practice at a hospital.

  • Reduce extraneous stimulation by saying no to things you or your child don’t have to do or that you or your child just don’t want to do. Look for sensitivities in environments, activities, people, foods, materials, clothes and more.

  • Make sure you or your child have had enough sleep, or take a nap, before facing a situation that will be highly stimulating. Being hydrated and doing breathing exercises helps, too, as does a healthy lifestyle in general.

  • Meditate, pray or ensure down time or any other relaxation method to strengthen the ability to cope with day-to-day challenges and realign the mind-body connection.

Often HSP’s find themselves on the mild spectrum of special neuro-diversities like AD(H)D, Autism or Dyslexia to name a few. These are commonly misunderstood as disability or abnormality, while I see them as a uniqueness that comes with challenges as well as great gifts. But detected or undetected these individuals often struggle adapting in our society and run the unnecessary risk of emotional trauma and self-esteem issues.

Website: HSPerson
Book: The Highly Sensitive Child
Book: The Highly Sensitive Person, Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D.
Book: Scattered, by Gabor Maté, M.D.

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